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Monday, January 4, 2016
Training Your Mind to see the Art Through the Object
Here is a case where I saw the art before I even had the object in hand. I knew what I needed for it, but had to go hunt down a shape that matched the vision in my head. Here is a stick. Pretty common looking but I wasn't looking for a stick. I was looking for a shape.
There was a certain curve to this stick that I needed. The medium had to be driftwood because I am currently only working with driftwood sculptures until the March show.
I can't stress the importance of not seeing the stick. The stick is merely the medium for the shape. A good way to train your mind is to consider the shape of everything around you and see other things in that shape. If you can do this successfully then you can envision almost any object to be something else.
So lets mount the stick on a tile and see how the form changes.
Now that we see the stick standing up, has the form changed? Is it still a stick or is your mind allowing you to see other things within that stick?
In the end that's all art really is. The ability to free the mind to see something other than what is actually in front of you. Where most see a blank canvas, you see a beach scene with the sun going down. You take it a step further and sense the shapes of each object on the canvas.
When I began as an artist, I took this a step further. I started seeing everything in three dimensions rather than one. For some reason my mind constantly wanted to see things bounce off the canvas. I took almost immediately to trying heavier mediums to create a higher rises in my paint. It wasn't long before I started adding actual objects to my work. For example, in this early piece called Nightshade, I wasn't satisfied with flat trees painted to look like they had dimension. Instead I wanted real dimension.
So I applied grout to the surface and created actual trees rather than just painting them on.
I really think this might be the point where painters become sculptors. We sense things in three dimensions.
So back to our stick on the tile. You'll note I've not yet explained what the stick really represents. As I continue along here I will post updated versions of the piece. When someone finally grasps what it is feel free to post it if you like or what you think it might be.
You will note that a circle of wire extrusions have been added to the topmost part of the branch. Your first instinct will be to guess that I am making a tree and that the wire represent branches. Do not be deceived. This piece will in no way resemble a tree when completed.
Here the sculpture is starting to take shape. The first photo shows the driftwood completely covered with natural clay. As I said before the point of this piece is to find a driftwood shape that matches the vision. The second photo you will note the odd striations running up through the clay in a swirling pattern. In the last photo a thin layer of foaming glue has been applied to the whole surface to seal in the clay and keep it from cracking. This will also help to secure the wire extrusions at the top from breaking off.
Now you can begin to see the true design for the piece. You may think that the topmost part was digitally added, but in actuality its made from polyfill, the same kind of stuff used to stuff teddy bears and pillows with. The fresh polyfill is broken into smaller pieces and spray painted with a light spray of black to create shadows within it. It was then attached to the wire extrusions, completely covering them and the top most part of the sculpture. I suspect some of you will start to know what this is now. So take a moment to consider that this is being made from a piece of wood.
Now our stick has undergone a color change to shades of gray, slate, cloud blue and territorial beige.
And now we begin to place the polyfill in crucial areas to create the illusion. To get the effect of debris swirling in the clouds I used a rustoleum product that creates a sprayed on natural stone finish. It was applied after to the polyfill after it was placed. The photo is actually a bit deceptive as to the size of the sculpture. Its actually quite a bit taller than the photo angle makes it seem. If you don't get what it is by now then you may want to get your eyes checked :)
This tiny house was bought in a second hand store last year. It was broken and not in very good shape but they only wanted a dollar for it, so I bought it and put it into my supply box. It not only fits perfectly beneath the tornado but the fact that its in bad shape and lost part of the roof makes it all the more real for the piece.
Here you can see a great number of changes. First of all the house has been raised on a concrete platform. Grass and hills have been added to either side of the house. A short stretch of road has been added. The bands around the tornadoes center have been changed to show more of a pronounced twist to the clouds. Lastly a silver cast was added to the tornado and then more debris sprayed on and a gold metallic cast was added to the top of the tornado to make it look like sunshine was streaming down on it from up above. You will also note that I used a tile chipper to remove some of the support tile, so it is no longer diamond shaped.
Its interesting how a piece sometimes names itself. Sometimes it happens before the piece is even started, other times it happens later on or when the piece is complete. Last night I used a set of tile snips to clip off the ends of the tile that were sticking out. You probably noticed that the tornado was in one corner forming a diamond shape. But the grass piece I was using was rounded and the roadway was straight. So I snipped off the extra tile a bit at a time. But after that it still didn't look right. So I placed another square tile beneath it in opposition to the diamond. I thought maybe I could build up the exposed areas. Then it dawned on me that I could paint the lower exposed areas metallic blue and turn it into water. To my analytical mind this made perfect sense that this house might be out on a spit of land on a lake, as many mansions do. So after painting the corners I added transparent silicon to create waves so the water had movements. And suddenly there was the name of the piece "The Lake House". A peaceful tranquil name that is in complete opposition to the violence about to consume it.
So here you see the piece with its water in place but not yet painted. The silicon will be stained blue slightly to make it easier to see.
Now this piece is missing something. I felt in fact that it was a little too real. It needed an element that brought back a surrealistic feel to the piece and took it one step away from the sickening reality of what happens to so many people. But at the same time I want to retain the emotion that is behind the piece.
My final solution was a distortion. Complete reality below the storm, but surrealism above. This image is taken looking down at the top of the storm. There are actually three skeletons. The third is laying flat in the clouds. It is both ghoulish and sobering but it brings home a point that might otherwise have been lost in the stark reality of the piece.
So here is the problem with experimental art. You never know what might go wrong. I'd noticed a few days ago that there was a very slight wobble to the tornado when I moved the piece. At once I knew that I'd miscalculated the base. I'd not used enough clay and glue and brought it high enough up to compensate for the weight of the bend of the tornado. So I set the piece aside to monitor it for a few days before finishing it up. This morning I came into the studio to find this.
Its almost as if she just laid down to take a nap. Nothing was damaged on the piece. If the central superstructure of the tornado had fallen off the work table it might have damaged her severely. But she just eased herself down and went to sleep. So now I'll have to determine whether the piece can be salvaged or not. There is a lot of work put into it, so I will most likely try and get her to stand again, but only if I know without a doubt that it will remain in place. Further updates to follow.
The only way to fix this problem is to reseat the tornado in its original position. But rather than use just foaming glue I've reseated her using epoxy instead. Sometimes foaming glue can peal away from a fired tile surface with enough weight applied. Epoxy adheres differently. Once the epoxy dries then I will reapply the foaming glue to the outer perimeter of the tornado and run it up the base at least 4 inches. This should help compensate for the weight issue later and eliminate the chance of pealing later. (Hopefully!) ;)
The view here is the tornado reseated with a support holding her in place until drying is complete.
Further Updates to Follow